A Speciality Mess
New ‘super-speciality’ hospitals still-born for now
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s much tom-tommed promise of bringing tertiary healthcare to West Bengal’s hinterland is struggling to take off amid a scarcity of specialist doctors, paramedics and medical technicians. So today, 41 government ‘super-speciality’ hospitals constructed at a cost of Rs 10 crore each are being used to store expensive medical equipment, most of it still in wooden crates. Incidentally, about Rs 1,100 crore under the Centre’s Backward Region Grant Fund is being diverted in the state for these hospitals.
In Nandigram, for instance, the crumbling block primary health centre (BPHC) was moved into the newly constructed super-speciality hospital on December 25. “The orders,” says Group D employee at the hospital and now ‘promoter’ Gopal Chandra Jana, “came from the chief minister”. The facility today has an OPD, 30 beds, a labour room for deliveries and a pharmacy, but no operation theatre. Hospital superintendent Adwaitya Mudi declined to comment.
And it’s not just Nandigram. As many as 34 super-speciality hospitals (the rest are not even functioning) that the Mamata government claims to have opened are all no more than BPHCs in shiny new buildings.
Aside from the fact that several of the new hospitals are located in Maoist territory (hence the reluctance of staff to serve there), West Bengal is also afflicted by an acute shortage of medical professionals. Close to 2,000 of the 3,453 sanctioned posts of specialist doctors are vacant. And 1,235 of the 5,835 approved posts for medical professionals are vacant. The government has made it mandatory for medical PG students to serve three years at a government district hospital. But with just 150 seats in PG, out of which 70-80 qualify to pursue a doctoral degree to become specialists, there are simply not enough specialists to go around. The CM’s grand healthcare endeavour looks to be still-born for now.
BEDS AND PANS Inside the super-speciality hospital at Nandigram